Influences of Religion and Spirituality in Medicine and Addiction Treatment
With an estimated 69% of Americans believing in religion or spirituality, it is essential to view the influences of these aspects on addiction treatment.
Loss of Faith and How It Affects Addiction
Addiction and loss of faith exist in a particular relationship, with losing faith as both the catalyst and consequence of addiction. For many, religion and spirituality provide a sense of comfort and a source of strength in the face of daily challenges. As a result, when faith is lost, it can cause the mind and body to seek out other sources of comfort, leading to dangerous behaviors and the development of substance use disorders. This article discusses the role of spirituality in addiction treatment and how, for some, it can be a helping hand towards recovery.
Straying Further from Faith
Addiction can also result in a loss of faith due to the negative emotions that may occur. Addiction can create a barrier that prohibits engagement in faith practices, whether this barrier is mental, physical, or societal. As a result, many individuals with substance use disorders find themselves straying away from faith, especially if they have struggled with the topic before.
Loss of faith is often associated with a loss of hope and other negative emotions, especially in those accustomed to spirituality. It can result in an increased risk of addiction, although addiction itself can also lead to the loss of hope and, consequentially, faith.
Faith also acts as a symbol of purpose, and the sudden loss of it can result in many conflicting feelings. Feeling loss or as if life is meaningless can increase the risk for the development of different mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, which often co-occur with substance use disorders and addiction.1
Integrating Faith in Recovery
Finding ways to incorporate faith and religion into recovery programs for substance abuse disorders has shown to produce several additional benefits, including a higher rate for the development of optimistic mindsets, increased access to and willingness to accept social support, and several more factors.2 Many methods of addiction treatment have begun to address faith, spirituality, and religion, including:
Faith and recovering from substance use disorders have long gone together. Several 12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, were founded on the principle of utilizing faith to create a comprehensive program designed to target mental and physical needs during recovery.
Most often, religious 12-Step programs include various inferences to religion, such as repentance and prayer to help overcome obstacles during recovery. Some programs are solely Christian-based while others may explore other religions or faith as a whole.
Substance use disorder is a mental health disorder that has been stigmatized. As a result, it is common for patients to experience guilt and other negative feelings.
While therapy and other treatment practices aim to correct this mind frame and self-perception, addressing it from a faith standpoint is also beneficial. Many religions and spiritualities offer a method of repentance, which can aid in displacing these feelings of guilt.
Like with guilt, many individuals may feel shame as a result of their addiction. Many religions, such as Christianity, deal with ethics and human dignity. Often, religious texts establish human dignity as an inalienable aspect that all are deserving of regardless of history. This belief can help foster a positive and healthy self-image, which can aid in treatment for addiction.
Religious and faithful communities can act as positive influences and can form a positive community that can provide support to those undergoing addiction treatment.
Filling the Void
Often, substance abuse occurs as a coping mechanism in response to negative feelings, especially emptiness. Integrating faith into addiction treatment can help fill these voids and heal the source of addiction.
Search for Purpose
One common void that may be encountered is a lack of purpose in life. Religion and spirituality can help provide meaning.
While providing methods to overcome guilt and shame, faith in addiction treatment also creates the opportunity to find acceptance in a supportive community.
Surrender to Divine
When combining faith with addiction treatment, the ability to surrender to the divine can take some stress off the mind and body. Individuals may feel less alone during the addiction treatment process and journey to sobriety.
Surrendering to the divine can also help alleviate some existential stress that may trigger periods of anxiety or depression. Religion and spirituality can provide answers to many questions that can elicit stress in daily life.
Faith-Based Therapy for Sober Living
Faith Can Change
Faith is a personal connection to aspects of higher precedence, and, as a result, it can change to fit the patient’s needs. When living a sober life, versatile faith-based therapies can help promote mind and body balance while addressing different topics regarding spiritual living.
Source of Strength
Faith and faith-based rituals like prayer can act as a source of strength for many individuals. Spirituality and religion can offer a support group like those conducted interpersonally. However, unlike support groups and group therapy sessions, individuals can access this source of strength and comfort at anytime and anywhere.
Role of Religion in Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment can come in many forms and utilize a combination of treatment methods. Understanding the role of religion in addiction treatment helps understand the benefits it can provide.
Faith Community Support Groups
Building lasting, meaningful connections is one of the most important parts of undergoing addiction treatment. Having a community, whether already established or developed through treatment, can provide the patient with a framework for support, allowing them to express their emotional needs.
For many individuals with substance use disorders, support can come in the form of support groups and group therapy. These treatment methods are highly valuable and shown to be efficient.
Many individuals may also find this level of support in guidance in faith community support groups. These can be casual, unstructured support groups, such as a church community, or organized groups led by a religious leader.
Higher Power Source of Comfort
With religions centered around a higher power or other forms of deity, patients can find comfort, most often through religious rituals or prayers. They can be beneficial at all stages of recovery during addiction treatment, as patients are still able to find comfort and solace when they may not be able to access their support groups or medical professionals.
Rigid Rules and Morals
The difference between religion and spirituality is the presence of rules and rigid moral standards. It can be beneficial in addiction treatment as it helps establish and provide structure in daily life while also acting as a guide in decision-making.
Worship services provide many different benefits, depending on the structure and focus of the day. On days with a focus on worship, services can provide a period, usually three to four hours long, of joy where the community gathers in gratitude and thanksgiving to celebrate. It provides a spirit of optimism and encouragement.
Worship services with an emphasis on moral and spiritual teachings, however, help patients whose addiction treatment is influenced by their faith to better their spiritual knowledge and learn new ways to react to the environment.
Study groups provide many of the benefits of worship services but on a more intimate level. With study groups, the smaller group size promotes a feeling of community and can create a safe space for faith edification.
Role of Spirituality in Addiction Treatment
Spirituality Without Religion
Understanding the difference between spirituality and religion can be important when discerning the benefits of integrated addiction treatment. While religion focuses on an organized group with a particular set of rules and beliefs, spirituality is much less liturgical and focused on personal connections and interpretations of higher precedence. Not all spiritualities feature deities, but they do share a focus on nurturing the spirit.
As a result, while some addiction treatments such as AA and NA are based on Christianity, other programs and treatments take an inclusive approach by addressing spirituality. They can focus on healing past traumas to help better the spirit while aiding in the body’s recovery from a substance use disorder.
Clinical Significance of Spirituality in Addiction
While most results of spirituality in addiction treatment may be anecdotal, there are clinical results that show how fostering a greater sense of faith, whether through religion, spirituality, or other sources, can benefit patients and increase positive results.
Mindfulness is the state of being aware of both cognitive and behavioral functions. It is a healthy connection between thoughts and actions and may also be known as mind control.
Mindfulness is often taught through mediation that is focused on encouraging active focus on the environment, thoughts, and feelings in a mindset that is free from any forms of judgment. It can be achieved through prayer and spiritual reflection.
Practicing mindfulness can help create holistic awareness and a mindset more attuned to the relationship between the body and mind.
Some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness through faith-based addiction treatment include:
- Stress relief
- Improved mental state
- Improved physiology
- Reduced chronic pain
- Increased optimism and positivity
Faith-based addiction treatment is beneficial due to its proven ability to promote connectedness in many forms.
First, a connection can be achieved for an improved relationship between the mind and body. It is like the goal that CBT sets to achieve but does so in a way that does not require the presence or guidance of a therapist. It is patient-led and tailored to specific needs.
However, the utilization of study groups and faith-based 12-Step programs, and similar treatments can also help foster a sense of connectedness within the community. It can help develop a support system beneficial during and after treatment.
One significant factor of faith-based recovery is providing the opportunity and guidance to practice gratitude. Doing so can help foster a sense of optimism and appreciation for small victories, which is extremely beneficial in faith-based healing and recovery in drug abuse treatment centers.
The act of practicing gratitude also requires reflection, both on how the mind and body reacted to a situation and the reality of that situation. It can promote accountability for behaviors and thoughts while also encouraging accurate introspection that can be used to better perspectives and produce better decisions and choices in the future. While it can be achieved through different methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, practicing gratitude does so while maintaining an optimistic atmosphere.
Practicing religion while seeking addiction treatment can result in an increased sense of accountability. Accountability can aid in positive decision-making skills and increased critical thinking during challenging situations.
Mental wellness is a significant aspect of pursuing substance abuse treatment in a drug addiction center. As much as the physical body is of importance, so are the mental aspects, which is why promoting mental wellness through activities is significant.
Mental wellness can also improve the relationship between mind and body and can help cultivate a healthy internal space.
Positivity is one of the most notable clinical aspects of religion in addiction treatment. As first expressed by Florence Nightingale, bedside manner and the atmosphere around that recovery can influence the success of treatment. By maintaining a sense of optimism and encouraging positivity, faith-based addiction treatment can help bolster the success of treatment and can result in more successful and healthy recoveries from substance use disorders.
Treatment Method for Addiction with Spirituality or Religion
With the additional benefits that spirituality and religion can introduce, it is common now for several popular addiction treatment methods to utilize faith in bolstering recovery. They often come as an alternative form of treatment, such as a different route to counseling or support groups.
Counseling can be a beneficial experience for everyone, even those not seeking addiction treatment. While it is often thought of in terms of psychology and therapy, counseling, at its root, is a guided conversation with a focus on patient improvement.
Many faith-based organizations provide counseling services. They involve pairing patients with a community leader, such as a pastor or rabbi, and fostering professional, productive conversation.
While Christian-based 12-Step programs such as AA and NA are some of the most common support groups for those with substance use disorders, they are not the only spiritual- and religion-based options available.
Support groups can come in a variety of different forms, including religious and secular. These combine a community setting, which has been shown to result in additional benefits as well as an increased risk for recovery, with a familiar structure.3 For those with a focus on religion and spirituality, it can also help individuals develop deeper spiritual connections and practices aimed at producing an overall sense of mental and physical wellness.
Without spirituality or religion, therapy, especially psychotherapies such as CBT, is a beneficial aspect of addiction treatment.4 Therapy allows the patient to form a professional connection with a mental health physician who will guide them through understanding behaviors and perspectives through several methods.
However, therapy can occur in a non-medical setting. Many faith-based organizations, such as churches or synagogues, offer therapy and counseling services that pair mental health guidance with teachings regarding higher powers.
Different forms of treatment offer various benefits. Therapy may provide medical benefits that are beneficial to fostering understanding of the mind, while support groups can provide a sense of companionship between those with similar circumstances.
As a result, it is not uncommon for several addiction treatments to be combined and utilized together. It allows patients the opportunity to reap the benefits of many treatment methods, helping create a holistic, multifaceted treatment plan with an increased rate of recovery.
Traditional and Faith-Based Healing
This combination also includes traditional treatment methods, such as psychotherapy, utilized alongside faith-based healing methods. Often, it is the most recommended form of treatment, as it allows the patient to approach their substance abuse disorder from multiple perspectives.